Monday, March 28, 2011

Birthday Crafting {Sneak Peek!}

Here's a little peek at some darling fabric waiting to be turned into something lovely for a certain someone's birthday... Just two months to make it happen, better get cracking crafting!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Food, glorious food!

Alice is 10 months old (as of yesterday)! We introduced solid foods 4 months ago, I thought I'd do a little follow up and let you know what we've been up to in the Senge kitchen!

At Alice's 6-month well baby visit, we learned that she hadn't gained any weight over the previous two months. I got a little worried (or ridiculously concerned and unable to think of anything else) but figured that she'd start plumping up once we introduced solid foods. You might remember that she didn't so much enjoy her first solid food experience. After she gagged all over that butternut squash, we had better success with bland and boring rice cereal.

It didn't take long for her to get the hang of the spoon situation and she decided she liked squash after all. From there, we introduced oatmeal, apples, pears, avocado, zucchini, sweet potato, tofu, bananas, and kiwi, all with great success. I'd like to think the success was partly due to the clever names her dad gave the meals we concocted. There were things like Squashlle Sauce (squash + applesauce), Parrots (pears + carrots), Applecados (applesauce + avocados). 
Alice happily enjoying some avocados over Christmas, just one month after her unsuccessful first feeding.

We've been able to sneak in a few carrots, but she's been resistant to them from the very beginning. Sometimes she'll choke them down, other times she'll protest mightily. We also tried to incorporate some protein via lamb and chicken, but she did not approve of either. I think it might be a texture issue, so we settled on tofu for now. It turns out I'm not a fan of lamb myself and pureeing it (or any meat) is even less appealing. So I'm happy to keep meat out of her meals until she can chew her food a little better and I can just mash up whatever we're eating.

For now though, we're still whipping up the week's menu every Saturday or Sunday. We steam chunks of fruits and veggies and then puree to the desired consistency. We've graduated from a very fine, sauce-like puree to a nice chunky texture.

Mason, Kerr, and other recycled jars await their purees.

Apples, Squash or Sweet Potatoes, Pears, and Prunes.

A few months ago, we decided it was time to graduate from our little baby Cuisinart to a bigger machine. Please meet Hamilton, Hamilton Beach.

Isn't Hamilton dreamy? Don't worry, we still use the little guy for small batch items like greens, but one batch of sweet potatoes fills Hamilton all the way to the top. There's no way the Cuisinart (or any other "baby food maker") could handle that kind of volume!

We've been introducing foods a little slowly and I decided to pick up the pace a bit since we weren't having any allergy or palate issues. Over the last two weeks, we introduced whole grain baby cereal, blueberries, peanut butter, and mangoes. Unfortunately, one of these foods is not agreeing with Alice, manifesting in some pretty gnarly diapers. This is especially unfortunate as we just invested in our own supply of cloth diapers. So not only do we (mostly Jon, obviously) have to change some really offensive diapers, we can't even just leave them on the porch for someone else to take care of! We (again, mostly Jon) have to wash them ourselves! That's another post for another day though...

Anyway, my bet is that the culprit is the wheat in the whole grain baby cereal. We've dropped down to a modified BRAT(plus) diet (bananas, rice cereal, apples pears, toast oatmeal, plus zucchini and sweet potato) until we get her tummy back to normal and then I'll try reintroducing everything but the whole grain cereal until/unless the diapers get funky again. Hopefully Alice can enjoy some "Elvis Oatmeal" again soon (that's oatmeal with peanut butter and bananas for the Elvis illiterate)!

I'm hoping that we're not looking at any major allergies here, hopefully just a little sensitivity that she'll outgrow by the age of 4 or 5, like most kids. I'm in the camp of the current thinking that believes introducing the common allergens (soy, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish/shellfish, strawberries, wheat) between 6-9 months lowers the likelihood of serious allergies. It's still terribly nerve-racking to spoon a possibly deadly food into your baby's mouth and watch for signs of anaphylaxis...

Another new factor in Alice's diet is the fresh, organic produce arriving on our doorstep via Farm Fresh To You. We intended to get as much of Alice's food as possible from the farmers' market but in reality, we have a really hard time getting out of the house early enough on Saturdays to make that happen. This way, we can get fresh, organic, in-season produce guaranteed. Plus, we know what's coming all week before our Friday delivery, so we can plan our menu in advance of our Saturday shopping instead of just winging it at the farmers' market (we're not that advanced yet). We're hoping this will get us out of our menu-rut, challenging us to find new dishes and explore new flavors. So although this CSA (community supported agriculture) program isn't quite as local as I'd prefer, it's still way better than the grocery store and we've already gotten a ton of things not available in our Trader Joe's - like chard and kale!

I've never cooked with kale or chard, but I've been wanting to expand my leafy greens horizons for a while now. I definitely want to use the greens in our CSA box for Alice's meals, since spinach and kale are on the dirty dozen list of the foods most contaminated with pesticides. But I want to enjoy these super foods too! So when we got our very first bunch of Lacinato (Dino) Kale, I thought I'd try some of the kale chips that the interwebs are raving about. I used these similar recipes from Smitten Kitchen and AllRecipes and took it from there.

My first bunch of prehistoric I mean, Dino Kale, ready for action.
I de-stemmed most of the leaves, leaving about the top 1/4 of each leaf in tact. I sort of folded each leaf in half along the stem and just sliced the stem off starting where the leaf curled over. I figured a little crunchy stem wouldn't be too terrible. I tore the leaves into bite-size chunks, then washed and rinsed them. Before I continued, Jon and I sampled a clean, raw leaf. He liked it better than the chard we had last week, I thought it tasted like grass - it reminded me of playing outside as a kid.

I tossed the bite-size leaves with olive oil, sprinkled on a little sea salt and garlic powder and spread them flat on parchment paper. The single bunch I had made two cookie sheets worth of chips. I debated pureeing half for Alice but figured I'd wait until her tummy settled down. Plus, if these chips were as delicious as everyone online says they are, I was going to want them all for myself!

ready for the oven.
I put them in a 350 degree oven and sampled after 10 minutes. The drier leaves were already starting to burn but many of the other leaves were still wet and chewy. I turned the temp down to 300 and gave them another 10-12 minutes. They had a fabulous, crispy crunch, which was most delicious right out of the oven. They were interesting, and I'll definitely try them again, but I'm not sure they're something I'd make because I crave them. Next time, I'll pat them dry and leave them out a while before I stick them in the oven. I might also toss them in balsamic or cider vinegar. I'll also definitely lay them out before I sprinkle them with salt or other seasonings, as I found it hard to season to taste with everything in the bowl. I think mine were a bit too salty and the sea salt gave them an essence of "sea snack" that I don't love. Also, as one reviewer noted, they may not keep very long. I put mine in a glass bowl with a plastic lid (since the kitties would have devoured every last leaf if I left them out) and they lost all their crispiness over night. I still have half the batch left over, we may add it to our dinner salads this week for a little extra salty, nutritious zing.

Yesterday, we also made our first tentative foray into the world of bread making. Jon has been scheming about this for a while now. We've contemplated a bread maker, but don't really have the space for it. Finally, he decided to try baking a loaf by hand to see if it was something he'd be able to manage with his work-at-home routine. After all, people have been doing it for eons, how hard can it be? He tried an easy whole-wheat recipe yesterday, and the verdict was encouraging. Very little hands-on time and two delicious loaves. I'm sure he'll keep scheming until he finds the perfect combination of cost, effort, and payoff.

from dough... loaves, tops brushed with butter.
So we spent a rainy Sunday in the kitchen, making kale chips and baking bread. We had broccoli and spring onions in our box this week so we stir-fried them for dinner with beef and green peppers and this amazing sauce/marinade/dressing. Oh, and I made these brownies - recipe courtesy of my lovely friend, Elissa, and her hilarious chef-friend Cory. They are hands-down the absolute best brownies I've ever had. No lie. Sadly, there are no photos to share with you. You'll just have to whip up your own batch and see for yourself.

All in all, it was a wonderfully lovely day that yielded some lovely and delicious food. It was a clear example of why we put such a high priority on cooking in our house. I know Alice is already benefitting from our efforts and I can't wait to teach her the value (and fun!) of healthful eating and cooking.

What's cooking in YOUR kitchen??

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Family Photo Shoot - Another Sneak Peek!

The wonderful Jackie Jones blogged about the photo shoot we had a few weeks ago and gave us another little sneak peek at some of the photos that we'll be getting in the mail any day now. I can't wait to see the rest!! 

I LOVE the little baby legs!!

If you're in or ever around Orange County, I definitely recommend spending a fun hour or two with Jackie, playing somewhere lovely while she captures gorgeous photos! You can see more of her beautiful work at Jacquelyn Rachel Photography.